By the time Kim Peek passed away in 2009, he had perfectly memorized 12,000 books, simultaneously making him both the best and the worst person to be stuck next to on a bus. “Anyone up for a stirring monotone recitation of Finnegan’s Wake?” One reason he was able to put away so many books is that he could read them two pages at once, one page with each eye, because apparently that’s something you can do. It is claimed Peek had an eidetic memory, or photographic memory, something that people aren’t even sure actually exists. However, if it does exist, Peek is probably the best case for it, reportedly being able to recall 98 percent of everything he ever experienced in perfect detail. To compare, most of us can’t recall 98 percent of the previous goddamned sentence.
Peek’s story was also the inspiration for the film Rain Man. However, when someone asked Peek to read a book on gambling (which would have taken him about 30 minutes), he told them that using his powers for gambling would be “unethical.” Many assumed Peek was, like the guy in the last entry, an autistic savant, because Americans think “autism” means “Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.” This wasn’t the case; Peek’s incredible ability is believed to have come from a congenital birth defect, which resulted in increased memory capacity. This is another way of saying he memorized everything, including the 12,000 books we mentioned earlier and sports statistics spanning decades.
For a given person’s hometown, he could tell you all highways leading to it, the county, area code and ZIP code, television stations available in the town, the name of the local telephone provider and any notable local history. Throughout it all, Peek only wanted to share his gift with the world. His father and caretaker never accepted anything in exchange for Peek’s appearances, except for the joy Kim felt when meeting other people. When Dustin Hoffman met him to research his role for Rain Man, he was quoted as saying, “I may be the star, but you are the heavens,” presumably before Peek told him his future and levitated out of the room.